Addressing hundreds of supporters while campaigning in Keene, N.H., last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared: “Let me tell you a secret: We’re going to win New Hampshire!” He has some reason to feel confident, given that a new poll put him just 10 percentage points behind front-runner Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary in the Granite State. But before he pops the champagne corks, I have a secret of my own to share with the senator: He may not qualify for the New Hampshire ballot as a Democrat. To understand why, let’s step back a bit. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to set the time of federal elections but not the manner in which political parties choose their nominees. That process is left to the states. The New Hampshire Constitution empowers the legislature to determine the qualifications for those being elected to office (something in which I was closely involved when I chaired the committee with jurisdiction over state election law while a member of the state Senate). Pursuant to that power, state law makes clear that candidates must be registered members of the party on whose ballot line they wish to appear.
This is a problem for Sanders, who is not a registered Democrat. One might ask why the good senator can’t simply change his registration in his home state from socialist or independent to Democrat. The answer is that Vermont doesn’t have a party registration system, so he can’t. Similar issues arose with the candidacies of Al Gore and both George H.W. and George W. Bush because, like Vermont, Tennessee and Texas do not register voters by party. But Gore and the Bushes qualified for New Hampshire’s primary ballots because they could show that they had previously appeared on ballots as a Democrat and Republicans, respectively. In his last election, Sanders likewise won the Democratic primary in Vermont, but he declined the nomination and asked that his name not appear on the general election ballot as a Democrat.
Full Article: Bernie Sanders’s primary problem – The Washington Post.